Penn softball entered Wednesday’s doubleheader at Villanova looking to build off of the momentum it got from its senior day sweep over the St. Joseph’s Hawks.
The Quakers split the pair of contests against the Wildcats, dropping the first game by a score of 6-2 before rebounding with a 4-2 victory.
Penn trailed early in the first game, never able to get enough offense going to overcome the 6-1 lead Villanova built over the first two innings. In the second game, however, the Red and Blue bounced back thanks to a complete game by junior pitcher Julia Longo.
On the mound for the Quakers in the first matchup was Isabella Fiorentino. The sophomore pitcher surrendered a two-run home run to Villanova’s Paige Rauch in the first inning, giving the Wildcats the lead that they hung onto for the rest of the game. Rauch also gave Penn trouble on the mound, striking out nine and allowing only five hits over her complete game effort.
Though the Red and Blue were never able to come within striking distance of Villanova in the first matchup, the game was not without several notable moments. Freshman designated hitter Julia Mortimer hit her first collegiate home run in the second inning, putting Penn on the board and shrinking Villanova’s lead to only one.
Unfortunately for the Quakers, however, Villanova tallied four runs in the bottom of the second. Penn attempted to chip at the lead in the top of the third, when second baseman Julia Schneider hit a solo home run to bring the score to 6-2. Following Schneider’s home run, neither team was able to score for the rest of the game, allowing Villanova to come out with a decisive victory in the doubleheader’s first game.
After allowing Villanova to establish an early lead in the first matchup, Penn made it a priority to get on the board early and often in the second matchup. The Quakers’ scoring started in the top of the first, when freshman shortstop Sammy Fenton scored Mortimer and Schneider on a double to left-center field. Fenton followed that up with another RBI in the third inning, when she scored Schneider again on a groundout to shortstop.
Fenton’s early success at the plate gave Quakers’ pitcher Longo a comfortable lead to work with on the mound. Coming off of a complete, two-hitter game against St. Joseph’s, Longo entered Wednesday’s contest looking to replicate that effort against a Wildcats team known for its strong offense.
“We’ve played Villanova in the past, and they’ve always been a very strong hitting team,” Longo said. “My mindset going into the game was just to pitch to my strengths [and] also to leave the balls on the corners and not really give them any solid pitches to hit.”
Longo was able to continue her hot start on the mound, throwing another complete game. Despite allowing eight hits and two walks, Longo allowed only two earned runs over her seven innings of work. Her performance also included working out of a jam in the sixth inning, when Villanova shortstop Julia DaCosta hit a solo home run. Wildcats left fielder Dani Dabroski added a second run for her team when she hit an RBI double, helping Villanova shrink the Quakers’ lead down to one.
With the score at 3-2 entering the seventh inning, the Red and Blue went to the plate trying to pad their lead before Villanova came up to bat again. They did exactly that when catcher Quaker Sarah Schneider scored Mortimer on an RBI single. Following the single, Penn took the field, looking to close out the game and notch its third victory of the season.
Similar to the sixth inning, Longo faced some trouble from Villanova’s hitters, as the Wildcats looked to mount a comeback in the bottom of the seventh. However, after allowing two Wildcats to reach base, Longo forced DaCosta to hit into a game-ending double play, securing the victory for Penn.
Rebounding from the first game loss allowed the Red and Blue to avoid being swept by Villanova squad that had won 13 of its last 14 games entering Wednesday. It also gives Penn something positive to build on as it moves into the latter portion of its shortened season.
“We knew that these were going to be really tough games,” Longo said. “They have a lot more games under their belt…they were just on a winning streak. I think moving forward with the win, we know that we can hang in there with those really, really tough teams.”
The Quakers' next action is in a week, when they host St. Joseph’s for the second of the teams’ two doubleheaders this season.